Kaushal Parikh is a street, travel and documentary photographer from Mumbai, India. In 2011 he founded the Indian street photography collective, That’s Life, and has become one of the most well-known names in contemporary street photography in India.
Kaushal recently took almost a decade’s work across India to create his first book, titled Fragments of a Spinning Rock. Fragments is not your typical photo book, though, as Kaushal created a full, artistic and personal experience for viewers to enjoy. Poetry is used throughout the book to help take you along the photographic journey and India’s streets and natural life are blended with his own personal life. This creative approach really helps showcase Kaushal’s beautiful black and white images of gritty and striking contrast.
From the book’s layout to how it juxtaposes the streets and nature, while including a strong touch of Kaushal’s personal relationship with his family and son, everything about Fragments of a Spinning Rock is unique. Since Fragments was released at the end of March, it has only been met with high praise and glowing reviews. So in honor of his new book, I got together with Kaushal to talk about Fragments in a new series here at Shooter Files, Behind the Book.
Behind the Book with Kaushal Parikh :
Fragments of a Spinning Rock
When did you first decide to start Fragments of a Spinning Rock?
The first time I saw a sonogram image of my son is when I was overcome with this need to make him proud. I wanted him to have something that he could hold on to permanently…something tangible that was representative of me as a photographer. A book seemed like the most logical idea.
Talk a little about the idea behind the book and how you come up with the name?
The book is basically about how we are all unique, both humans and animals, and yet at the very core of it we are all the same. We laugh, we feel sorrow, we feel pain. We are all just tiny fragments of our spinning rock, just small parts of the same whole.
The idea of the book was already in my mind and I had a few title ideas, but I wasn’t totally satisfied. And then one day I was surfing online and came across this line as part of an article talking about something I can’t even remember. In fact, the article was not even related to the idea of the book. But the second I read this phrase I knew I had my title.
A decade taken down to 65 photos must have been a ton of editing. How did you go about selecting those 65 images and was there a reason you came to that number?
It wasn’t easy. There are so many issues to overcome. Firstly, one is always drawn to his or her more recent images. But often these images are not as powerful as some earlier work. Or we hold on to the memory of some earlier images that don’t necessarily fit the flow and aesthetic of the edit. Letting go of some images you love and sometimes choosing images to maintain a sequential flow are all tricky decisions and so I am grateful to some friends who really helped me be more objective through their input.
65 images is what my edit finally came down to. I knew I wanted more than 50 and less than 75 images but did not have a fixed number in mind. Although one thing I had to keep in mind was the number of pages for cost purposes, as well as printing requirements (i.e. the number of pages had to be a multiple of 4 for the selected binding method).
The majority of the photos in your book were previously unseen to the general public. Was that a conscious decision or did it just come out that way after curating a cohesive book? Did you feel like you left out any of your personal favorites?
I have always been against splashing my work across social media platforms because I felt it didn’t do me justice as a photographer. An image appears on Facebook, garners likes and then quickly whizzes by on the information highway, soon to be lost in space. I always felt that the impact of a cohesive body of work was more permanent. And of course print is the most permanent way to immortalize ones work.
Now that my book is done I feel a sense of freedom. I have no problems showing my images, intakes and outtakes, on social media now – sort of like cleaning out my closet.
I hope to find a new direction to set off on with my next project soon.
And, yes, I do feel that I may have missed out on including a couple of images, but I don’t dwell on it too much. I am happy with the final product that accurately reflects my vision so I could not have asked for more.
What lessons would you say you learned from working on your book?
The most important lesson I learned is that I will never be able to please everyone. So the only way to be satisfied is to stay true to your personal vision and hope that there are people out there who will relate to you at a similar level.
Outside of your own city of Mumbai, what are some other cities that made the book. Was it all about the best photos for the book or did you want to show many different parts of India?
It was about showing good images while, at the same time, covering a variety of cities – although the individual images were never consciously about the place. Apart from Mumbai, there were about 20 cities showcased in the book.
What do you personally take from viewing your finished book? And what do you hope viewers take from it?
What I take from my book is a long personal journey of growth and creation. To me, it is like a diary of my existence over the last decade.
As far as viewers are concerned, I just hope they can relate to and appreciate the images and I hope they are able to create their own stories that often come from personal experiences. As long as people are moved and react (hopefully positively), I will be happy.
Last Question: Are there any books that have had an impact or influence on you personally? And name one book you’d recommend others check out (right after checking out yours, of course :)
Different books at different stages:
Suffering of Light by Alex Webb, Snaps by Elliot Erwitt and books of Raghu Rai’s early work were inspirational when I started.
Then there was Gypsies by Koudelka and Minutes to Midnight by Trent Parke.
My most recommended book with black & white images is Jason Eskanazi’s Wonderland.
And my most recommended book with color images is Per-Anders Pettersson’s Rainbow Transit.
A big thank you to Kaushal for the interview and an even bigger congratulations on the new book. For anyone interested in purchasing a copy from Kaushal before they’re all gone (which I’d highly recommend), I’ve included a direct link below: